Postgame schadenfreude, edition number 100 (wins)

As long-time readers know, big wins over rivals get the postgame schadenfreude (defined as gaining pleasure from others’ misfortune) treatment.

It’s particularly fun to watch Chicago media eviscerate Da Bears when they disappoint, even if the Packers’ 41–25 (and it wasn’t that close) throttling Sunday, the Packers’ 100th win over Da Bears, wasn’t really a surprise.

The Chicago Sun-Times begins with a very pointed headline and subhead:

Hot seat heats up for Bears coach Matt Nagy after humiliating 41-25 loss to Packers

The Bears have been absolutely awful on offense the last two seasons, and it’s hard to see an alleged offensive guru keeping his job when they start cleaning up this mess at the end of the season.

As losses accumulate and the Bears drift further from being a contender, the thrill of coach Matt Nagy’s debut season fades into forgetfulness. The team has plunged since then, plodding along with one of the NFL’s worst offenses and minimal cause for optimism.

Their latest humiliation came in the most painful way possible: A thoroughly devastating and decisive 41-25 defeat by the Packers at Lambeau Field. It’s their fifth consecutive loss, and they’ll go into December sitting outside the playoff field for the second season in a row.

The Packers have been snuffing out Bears coaches for years now, and Nagy must wonder if he’s next after this one. He’ll certainly get the rest of the season, but the case is stacking up against him lasting beyond that. A game like this should make him very concerned about his job.

“No, I’m not,” he said.

A lot of people are, though.

When asked to defend where the Bears are right now, Nagy went back to a well-worn soliloquy about sticking together. He’s right to think that way, but it doesn’t change anything about how far the Bears have fallen.

“We understand where we’re at, and when you have games like this, you’ve gotta soul search,” he said. “You’ve gotta be able to stop the bleeding. There’s a couple directions you can go.

“But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that. Obviously the last five weeks have been extremely difficult. It’s not fun. We all want to win. But the one reason why I’m here is to fight and to lead, and that’s what I think is most important during these times. When you go through these times, how do you respond? I think that’s the test of true character.”

This felt like the most desperate game of Nagy’s time with the Bears as he tried to fight off the longest losing streak of his career and keep them above .500. The Bears actually would’ve overtaken the Cardinals for the seventh playoff spot with a win.

He went back to Mitch Trubisky, his original choice as starting quarterback this season, and the offensive came to life with a 57-yard run by David Montgomery on its first possession.

For a fleeting moment, the Bears were an exciting offense — the very thing the organization hired Nagy to create. They quickly spiraled into the same bad habits — no run game, mindless penalties, disastrous turnovers by Trubisky — and the game was out of reach late in the second quarter with the Packers ahead 27-3.

They ran it to 41-10 by the end of the third, and that was it. Anything the Bears did after that was of no consequence. They get no award for technically making it a two-score game putting up their third-highest point total of the season. By the way, the league average this season is 25 points per team per game.

“They got after us the entire game, from the first quarter to the very end,” Nagy said. “That’s basically where we’re at right now.”

The only good thing about Sunday was that it was the last time America had to sit through a Bears game on a national broadcast this season.

Nagy’s offense, with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays for the second game, fell flat, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It was a complete meltdown for the Bears as their defense, which had been the only thing keeping them afloat, withered against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers scored on their first three full possessions and added another touchdown when Trubisky fumbled at his own 11-yard line.

If Nagy doesn’t have the safety net of an elite defense, he’s got no shot.

Over the last two seasons, cumulatively, the Bears had the second-fewest points and total yardage in the NFL going into Sunday. They’ve averaged the third-fewest yards per carry and put up the sixth-worst passer rating. Only two teams have been worse on third downs.

Nagy has great leadership qualities, but how does any offensive guru keep his job with those numbers?

The number in Nagy’s favor has always been his record, which has gotten considerably dimmer since going 12-4 and winning the NFC North in 2018. The thumping by the Packers dropped him to 25-18.

That includes a 5-0 mark against the Lions team that can’t beat anybody, plus seven wins when his team scored fewer than 20 points. Marc Trestman would’ve won if he’d been supplied this defense.

There’s been a lot more Club Flub than Club Dub lately. It takes a minute to even remember the last time the Bears won a game. It was their most lopsided victory of the season, an error-riddled 23-16 escape against the Panthers 42 days ago.

This mess isn’t entirely Nagy’s fault as he works with a completely mismanaged roster from general manager Ryan Pace. He was holding his breath hoping this would be just a Nagy column.

He’s got his coach trying to rebuild an engine with spare parts from a bicycle.

There’s no offensive line and no quarterback. And, worst of all, no plan to fix it. Nick Foles is under contract for two more seasons, salary-cap concerns will prevent them from fully overhauling the o-line and they’ll be light on playmakers if wide receiver Allen Robinson walks in free agency.

Pace bears more of the blame than Nagy. He did exceptional work crafting one of the NFL’s best defenses, but totally undercut that with his poor judgment on offense. There’s no way the Bears can rationalize letting him try to rebuild the offense again, and firing Pace likely means the end for Nagy as well.

Pace has had it coming ever since he whiffed on Trubisky in the draft and allowed Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes to land elsewhere.

Remember when the Bears went 8-8 last season and the whole city was furious about it? That was their second-best record of Pace’s six-year span as general manager.

During his tenure, the Bears are 39-52 — worse than the Dolphins and Raiders; barely ahead of Washington and the Lions.

That kind of mess requires a deep cleaning, and it’ll be difficult for Nagy to avoid getting swept out.

The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs has 10 thoughts, including …

  1. At the midpoint of the 2014 season, the Bears made their trip to Lambeau Field after their bye week and were absolutely humiliated, pummeled by the Packers 55-14 in a stunning beatdown before a Sunday prime time audience.
    Green Bay bolted out to a 42-0 lead at halftime that year and the Bears became the first team since the Rochester Jeffersons in 1923 to allow 50-plus points in consecutive games, as they had melted down two weeks prior in a 51-23 loss at New England.The Bears had an extra week before the 2020 game as well, although that extra time is hardly normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as the NFL ratchets up protocols and policies on what seems like a weekly basis now. And wouldn’t you know it, the Bears got kicked around once again, falling behind 27-3 in the second quarter and then trailing 41-10 after three quarters. Aaron Rodgers did pretty much whatever he wanted to, the Bears struggled to do so much as lay a hand on him and the defense showed minimal interest in playing run defense. The offense? Well, it looked a little bit better than it had while flatlining with Nick Foles at the controls, but it’s going to be tough to beat any opponent at minus-three on turnovers — and damn near impossible to beat Rodgers.I reference the 2014 loss at Lambeau Field as I really think that was the beginning of the end for the Marc Trestman era. He was fired after only two seasons — a move that came at the end of the season — and with each frustrating week that passes, the chatter will only become louder about the future of those currently in charge at Halas Hall.

    General manager Ryan Pace is the architect of the Bears roster and in his sixth season. He’s had one winning season to date and the Bears have not won a playoff game since Jerry Angelo occupied that office. Matt Nagy is the coach, the guy hired because of his acumen on offense and brought in to turn things around after the dreary and non-imaginative John Fox. Neither is excelling and will come under scrutiny as this season unravels. The Bears were paper tigers when they were 5-1 early in the season and now they’re battling injuries and the pandemic, and they’re going to be exposed just about every time they face an opponent with a high-powered offense. They can’t keep up. It’s that simple.

    I don’t necessarily buy the idea that the horrid loss to the Packers got Trestman fired. Not on its own. That season was spiraling out of control and while the team managed wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the following weeks, it went on to lose the final five games. In all, Trestman lost eight of the final 10 games, and he and GM Phil Emery were fired the day after the 2014 season ended.

    Sunday’s loss was ugly, but not nearly as gruesome as the 2014 debacle. What’s really interesting is that there are now four teams with GM openings around the league. Jacksonville fired Dave Caldwell on Sunday, a day after the Detroit Lions blew out GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia. There are numerous coaching vacancies annually. Usually, there are five or six teams pressing the reset button with a head coach. GM jobs don’t turn over quite as often and of the three front office folks I reached out to Sunday night, none could ever recall four spots being open during a season before. The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans will also be hiring a GM and coach after the season.

    What’s that mean for Pace and Nagy? I don’t know just yet, but I get the distinct impression things are trending badly for both. A longtime agent who represents coaches said he wasn’t too surprised about the four openings around the league right now and said he doesn’t think there will be too many more.

    The pandemic has cost countless millions of people around the world employment or earning potential. It’s had a stunning impact. You get the feeling that while COVID-19 has cost so many people their jobs, it could wind up saving a few coaching staffs around the league. That’s the economic part of the equation that few want to acknowledge, especially when they’re frothing mad at the team they follow. Will this come into play for the Bears? I don’t know that, but I do know is the NFL is a business for the McCaskeys. They haven’t sold a single ticket at Soldier Field this season and it certainly doesn’t look like they will. It’s anyone’s best guess what stadium attendance will look like in September 2021, meaning the bottom line could still be taking a hit at the start of next season. I can say with relative confidence that the financial impact of the pandemic is going to be a major factor for football coaches at the NCAA level and I suspect it will also come into play at least somewhat in the NFL.

    1. Matt Nagy said he’s not worried about losing his job — and he shouldn’t be right now.

    The Bears are 5-6, which isn’t good enough, and they’re a franchise that has never previously fired a coach during the season. But Matt Nagy is in a heck of a battle right now and I’m not sure how much he has in his background to help navigate his way out of it. The last time Nagy was part of a five-game losing streak was in 2015 when he was the quarterback coach in Kansas City. The Chiefs won the season opener, then dropped their next five games before winning 11 straight, including one in the wild-card round of the playoffs before being eliminated. Before that, Nagy was a quality control assistant in Philadelphia in 2012 when the Andy Reid era came to a crashing end.

    Nagy is a positive guy and sometimes he can lean on some corny sayings. Fortunately, he didn’t do this after the Week 12 loss. It still can come across as word salad though, but at some point, however it’s framed really doesn’t matter, right?

    “It’s about fighting adversity, it’s about building cultures and staying together,” Nagy said. “That’s where we’re at. So that’s what I do, that’s what our coaches do, that’s what our players do. We stay together and we understand where we’re at and that when you have games like this, you’ve got to figure out, you’ve got to soul search and you’ve got to be able to stop the bleeding. There’s a couple directions you can go. But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that.

    “Obviously, the last five weeks has been extremely difficult. It’s not fun because we all want to win and we know that. The one reason why I’m here is to fight and to lead, and that’s what I think is most important during these times. And when you go through these times, how do you respond and I think that’s the test of true character.”

    He loses me when he launches into a discussion of culture. Yes, I’ve covered Bears teams with worse cultures in the locker room. No question about it. But this team’s culture, no matter how much better it might be, isn’t making much difference when it comes to on-field performance.

You know what improves a locker room culture? Winning.

The contrast has been made numerous times between the Packers and their two starting quarterbacks over the past quarter-century and Da Bears’ 252 quarterbacks over that time. When you lack a capable quarterback (and there are more NFL quarterbacks than there are capable NFL QBs), you do dumb things like sign a quarterback with part of one good season to a stupidly large free-agent contract (see Glennon, Mike) and then trade draft picks to move up to get a quarterback (see Trubisky, Mitch) the same offseason.

(Yes, the Packers have the ignominy of the John Hadl trade. Of course, it’s not as if Da Bears had better QB play during the ’70s either.)

For Bears fans unfamiliar with stability under center, the Tribune’s Dan Wiederer writes what it’s like:

Third-and-long. Against the NFL’s stingiest red-zone defense.

Aaron Rodgers knew a play was needed on the opening drive Sunday night at Lambeau Field, and he dialed in accordingly. With the Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears 12-yard line and trying to finish off a tone-setting march that already had covered 63 yards in 13 plays, the quarterback whom Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano likened this week to Picasso and Michelangelo went to his palette, whipped out his brush and gracefully painted his newest masterpiece.

The play that ended with Rodgers pinpointing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams took 9 seconds from snap to score. It was another dazzling off-script magic trick and a definitive closing argument — if there is such a thing less than 8 minutes into a game — that the Packers remain the class of the NFC North.

Still, Rodgers’ comprehensive postgame description of that touchdown pass proved even more striking to anyone in Chicago who might have been listening, just one more reminder of the master class on quarterbacking he has been teaching for the last 13 seasons as the Packers starter, so often at the Bears’ expense.

So, Aaron, about that TD …

“I saw that they dropped eight at the snap,” Rodgers began. “So I knew I’d have a little bit of time. We ran a two-man concept to that side with Davante and Robert (Tonyan). And I was about 50-50 as to whether ‘Te was going to stop his route and break it off at the top of the stem, which actually wasn’t in the plan. But I thought he might make that reaction. He didn’t. So I went to (Tonyan). And right when I was about to throw it, he slipped.

“So I reset back in the pocket because we had done a nice job on the right side and doubled Khalil (Mack) over there. And as I reset back in the pocket, I saw Davante kind of roll behind (Danny) Trevathan. And I knew based on the presnap, they probably wouldn’t have anybody on the left side who would disrupt a throw in that area. So I just tried to put it high knowing Davante has such great leaping ability. Obviously he came down with it.”

The Packers were ahead to stay.

Be honest, Bears fans. When’s the last time you heard your starting quarterback describing surgery with that level of detail? Heck, when’s the last time you had a quarterback do what Rodgers did Sunday night, drilling touchdown passes on his first three possessions, adding a fourth in the third quarter and carving out the Bears’ heart in a 41-25 gutting?

Think about it. The Packers scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to open Sunday’s bright-lights, big-stage game. During the Bears’ current five-game skid/collapse/free fall, the offense has scored only two touchdowns before the fourth quarter. The Bears offense remains consistently unreliable in the first half and downright awful in the third quarter.

That’s what made Sunday’s biannual check-in on the Packers so jarring and distressing and, if you can bring yourself to appreciate the brilliance of a rival, sort of refreshing.

“So that’s what an NFL offense is supposed to look like.”

As the Bears season accelerates down the garbage chute with a fan base screaming for heads to roll ASAP at Halas Hall, the Packers are coasting to another division title and eyeing another run deep into January and possibly beyond.

While Rodgers and his offense consistently creating iconic artwork, the Bears seem to be stuck in a first-grade project gone bad, covered from head to toe in acrylic and sheepishly apologizing for the mess.

“This is the stuff through the season that you go through,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s about fighting adversity.”

Rodgers, by contrast, was cheerful but characteristically low-key in the afterglow of his team’s win, relishing what he called “a fun day of milestones.” Follow along for some of the most prestigious.

  • Adams recorded his 500th career reception on that first-quarter touchdown, becoming the fifth Packer in that fraternity. (For perspective, the Bears’ all-time leader in catches is Walter Payton with 492.)
  • Rodgers became the 11th quarterback in league history to surpass 50,000 passing yards, doing so in style in the third quarter with a well-designed and all-too-easy 39-yard play-action touchdown pass to tight end Tonyan. (Again, for perspective, Rodgers’ passing yards total is greater than that of Jay Cutler, Sid Luckman and Jim Harbaugh — the Bears’ three career leaders — combined.)
  • And — oh, yeah — Rodgers was sure to point out that Sunday’s victory was the Packers’ 100th over the Bears in the historic rivalry, giving them a five-game lead in a series that was once tilted heavily in the Bears’ favor. Before Brett Favre and Rodgers, of course.

“I’m proud to be just another one of the guys in the lineage of Green Bay quarterbacks who have had the opportunity to lace them up against Chicago,” Rodgers said, “and we’ve obviously won a good deal of my starts.”

When the Bears offense faces gritty, nasty defenses, we tend to hear about it for a month afterward with explanations for why the running game can’t get going or why the third-down failures were so extreme or how an untimely turnover or red-zone stall-out led to another maddening loss.

The Packers, meanwhile, sized up a normally rugged Bears defense, decided they had the right combination of playmaking ability and schematic wrinkles and then went out and dominated the night.

Rodgers’ four touchdown passes were certainly headline-worthy. But Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams also combined to run for 163 yards on 34 carries.

So while the Bears spent their latest postgame therapy session with Nagy calling for teamwide “soul searching” and an urgent quest to “stop the bleeding” and another wave of appreciation for his team’s fight, the Packers suddenly believe they’re light years ahead of where they were at this time last year. Remember? When they went 12-4 and fell one victory short of the Super Bowl?

When the 2019 season began, there was leaguewide curiosity about how Rodgers and Packers coach Matt LaFleur would coexist, whether a 15th-year veteran on his way to the Hall of Fame would jell with a green head coach barely four years older than him.

On Sunday night, Rodgers was in a full gush about how LaFleur has worked to refine and improve this high-powered offense, praising “the subtleties of simplicity” that the Packers coach implemented over this past offseason.

“That’s really allowed me to feel super comfortable with the plan every week, with my responsibilities and my checks,” Rodgers said. “And I think that’s why I’ve been playing well.”

Simplicity. Comfort.

The Packers offense had a near-perfect first half. Touchdowns on three of their possessions. Zero penalties. None of their 37 plays lost yardage. Eighteen of them produced first downs.

Rodgers believes LaFleur has “settled into his role as head coach.”

“Him and I have really been on the same page all season,” Rodger said. “There’s just a beautiful trust that has blossomed even more this year between him and I.”

LaFleur, meanwhile, paid the praise forward to the effort of an offensive line that has been sturdy all year and helped jump-start Sunday night’s beatdown. (The Bears not only never sacked Rodgers or forced a turnover, but they also weren’t credited in the final game book with a single quarterback hit.)

“It makes it a lot easier, no doubt about it, when you have your whole playbook open and you can call plays that are complementary,” LaFleur said.

None of this sounds at all familiar to Bears fans, who are left to continue envying the Packers’ success as they try to unsee interceptions forced into double and triple coverage. Bottom line: Week after week, the Bears make it clear they have few if any answers on offense.

As so many feared, Nagy’s midweek praise of Mitch Trubisky’s “different focus” and his impressive week of practice and the offense’s oh-so-encouraging “huddle mechanics” didn’t mean much on game night.

The Bears stalled in the red zone on their opening drive, settled for a field goal and never led. Trubisky threw two picks and fumbled twice, losing one that Preston Smith scooped up for a 14-yard touchdown return.

Trubisky short-hopped throws to open receivers on multiple occasions. He also threw high and away at times.

The Bears’ fifth straight loss — and the franchise’s third winless November in the last five seasons — brings amplified questions about Nagy and the quarterback situation and general manager Ryan Pace and a genuine curiosity about how many current players, coaches and front-office members still will be here the next time the Bears win a playoff game.

“Right now, this is a very, very difficult time that we’re going through,” Nagy said.

Meanwhile, the Packers rolled on, satisfied but hardly surprised by Sunday’s blowout.

“It says a lot about who we are as a team,” Adams said.

Added Rodgers: “I like where we’re at. … I said before the game and I believe it: If you want to be a great team, these are the kind of games you have to win.”

In this series, the Packers usually do.

Who would have thought Bears fans would pine for Dick Jauron and Jay Cutler?

ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson continues the theme of future firings:

The Chicago Bears (5-6) seem like a team headed toward massive offseason change.

Sure, the Bears technically remain in the hunt for one of three NFC wild-card spots — the NFC North Division race effectively ended with Green Bay’s 41-25 victory on Sunday night — but coach Matt Nagy’s team is so much worse than its record indicates.

With an extra week to prepare, the Bears played their most egregious and lethargic opening half of football of the year and fell behind 27-3 in front of a prime-time audience.

In an epic reversal, the Bears’ defense — considered the bedrock of the team — pulled a complete no-show against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who carved up Chicago. The Bears’ defense — minus lineman Akiem Hicks — failed to stop the run, pressure Rodgers (zero sacks, zero hits) or cover open Green Bay receivers downfield. At one point in the second quarter, the Packers’ offense had 15 first downs and were 5-of-5 on third down. The lone time the Bears stopped Green Bay on third down, the Packers went for it on fourth down — and converted. Go figure.

Speaking of the Bears’ offense, not much has improved there, either, as the team’s losing streak reached five games.

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s return produced the results most expected — average-to-slightly-below-average play and nowhere close to special.

Trubisky appeared to establish a rhythm within the offense at times but committed three costly turnovers, including a fumble that Green Bay scooped up and returned for a touchdown.

What cannot be ignored is on another day when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dazzled the nation (462 passing yards, three touchdowns), Trubisky cruelly reminded everyone the Bears have no long-term solution at quarterback. What happened in the 2017 NFL draft (trading up for Trubisky over Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) cannot be undone.

Because of that singular blunder, there is no clear path to unseat the Packers. There is no obvious plan of attack to a playoff berth in 2021. Who’s the quarterback? Who’s the head coach? Who’s the general manager? Who’s the playcaller?

The entire organization needs to be reexamined when the season comes to a close.

We know who the owner is. That may be the problem, but that’s up to the McCaskeys to fix.

 

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